Travel: 192-part guide to the world - Part 19: Benin

OFFICIAL NAME

The Republic of Benin.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

French, although many indigenous groups have their own languages, such as Bariba and Fulani in the north and Fon and Yoruba in the south.

POPULATION

5,246,000, made up of the Fon, Fulani, Aja, Peda, Chabe, Yoruba, Bariba and Somba peoples.

SIZE

43,484 square miles. Belgium would fit into it just more than three-and- a-half times.

BEST MONUMENT

The monument of the martyrs, in Cotonou, which commemorates the five Benin soldiers killed defending their administrative capital from a coup against the current president, Mathieu Kerekou, in the late 1970s. To satisfy architectural curiosity, head for Ganvie, a river village, built entirely on stilts which has been called "the Venice of Africa".

NATIONAL DISH

As a former French colony, Benin is renowned for its cuisine, particularly crayfish and shrimps served with rice.

CLIMATE

Hot and humid all year round. Last week, temperatures were in the mid- 20s, with frequent thunderstorms. Take your brolly.

MOST FAMOUS CITIZEN

Angelique Kidjo, one of Benin's few professional female singers who fuses traditional rhythms with contemporary Western musical influences. She has released four albums, the last featuring Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile", and is now living in Paris.

BEST MOMENT IN HISTORY

The country gained its own parliament in 1946 and won its independence from France in 1960. It became the People's Republic of Benin in 1975. After years of turbulence and frequent coups, Nicephore Soglo won the first multi-party elections in 1991.

WORST MOMENT IN HISTORY

Between 1960 and 1975 the country suffered a series of bloody coups and a long period of governmental instability, caused by ethnic rivalries. economic difficulty and social unrest.

ESSENTIAL ACCESSORIES

To blend in, male visitors should don an agdabe, a lightweight suit consisting of baggy trousers and jacket. Women should dress in brightly coloured dresses. A pocket French dictionary would be useful, and don't forget your waterproofs.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Trample on ants and bugs as you stroll about. Sixty per cent of the population are animists, believing that every part of nature has a spirit and should be respected.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border